Frontier Adventure

Reunions of the Heart on Idaho’s Middle Fork Salmon River

By Michael Lanza

Sitting in my inflatable kayak as our flotilla of
more than a dozen rafts and kayaks launches on our first morning on Idaho’s
Middle Fork of the Salmon River, I just drift and wait. And it takes only a
moment before the feeling sinks in deeper than the warm sunshine on my skin:
serenity. The profound peacefulness generated by the simple act of floating down
a wild river, surrounded by a wilderness of mountains, forest, and canyons vaster
than the mind can comprehend.

It’s a good feeling, and one I’ve been eagerly

Our party of about 30 people, including my family and
two generations of other families and friends—several in their late teens and early
twenties—who’ve joined us from as far away as the Boston area and Germany, has
embarked on one of the great multi-day, wilderness river trips in America—if
not the greatest. The Middle Fork, deep in central Idaho’s sprawling,
2.4-million-acre Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness (aka “the Frank”),
has earned this reputation for its mix of breathtaking scenery, frequent rapids
up to class III and IV, beautiful campsites and side hikes, hot springs,
world-class trout fishing, and one of the most lovely rivers to ever carve a
twisting canyon through mountains.

Rafting Idaho’s Middle Fork Salmon River.
” data-image-caption=”Rafting Idaho’s Middle Fork Salmon River.
” data-medium-file=”″ data-large-file=”″ width=”900″ height=”600″ src=”″ alt=”Rafting Idaho’s Middle Fork Salmon River.” class=”wp-image-36202″ srcset=” 1200w, 300w, 768w, 1024w, 1080w” sizes=”(max-width: 900px) 100vw, 900px” data-recalc-dims=”1″ />Rafting Idaho’s Middle Fork Salmon River.

In many ways, this six-day journey is a reunion—or actually,
several reunions.

For my family and two others here, this is a reunion
of a formative adventure for our children that we took 12 years ago, floating the Green
River through Canyonlands National Park when our kids ranged in age from 11 to four. For
several years afterward, my kids referred to it simply as “the river trip”—in
their minds, it became the archetype by which all future river trips would be
measured. To us parents, those five days on the Green don’t feel all that long
ago, of course. But looking at the young adults in their early twenties and
late teens now, who were grade schoolers and preschoolers then, reveals starkly
just how much time has ticked past since—and how much parenting has taken place
to bring us to this point where our kids now sit in rafts and kayaks on the
Middle Fork.

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